Love and Grief

by Varda

Below Merry the river thundered, its icy spray soaking his clothes. He gripped the slender silver Elven rope desperately in both hands and tried to get his dangling feet back onto the guide rope.

‘Merry!’ Pippin shouted in alarm from the opposite bank. But was there laughter in that voice, Merry wondered with annoyance; his slighter friend had run across so quickly and nimbly Merry had felt it his duty as a Brandybuck to cross at least as briskly….and he had slipped and now he was dangling from the rope, with all the stern Galadhrim guards and the Fellowship too watching him. Merry’s cheeks burned with shame. Pippin would pay for this…

‘Don’t be afraid!’ called a calm clear voice with a hint of amusement, an Elven voice,. It was the tall fair Elf who was leading them ever deeper into the land of Lórien, Haldir.
‘The river Celebrant is swift and deep but it will not claim your life, little one’ he said in a reassuring voice.
‘Be still and let the rope steady, then try again to set your feet on it….’

Merry took a deep breath and tried to calm his pounding heart. Then he reached for the slippery Elven rope with his furry toes. He caught it, lost it, caught it again and this time held it. Haldir said
‘That is it, now gently, place your weight, rest your grip a bit, you are in no mortal danger, it is only water!’
At this he heard a chuckle from Pippin; how often had Merry boasted about how Brandybucks had no fear of water! He gritted his teeth and inched on till he saw beneath him mossy rocks, gleaming in the wet from the river spray. A strong hand caught him and lifted him into land.

Merry was breathing hard, glad to be on dry ground, and looked up gratefully at the tall Elf. At first he had seemed formidable, when he had confronted the Fellowship in the forest with his stern Galadhrim archers in their grey, green and russet forest habit, like sunshadows under beeches. Merry had believed that he would shoot them without warning. But as they followed his lead into the heart of the Golden Wood he saw how Haldir answered their questions truthfully and courteously. Now he set Merry down with a smile and asked;
‘Well, halfling, are you over your fright? Can you continue?’
Merry felt slightly abashed; had his fear shown so clearly? He smiled and bowed and said;
‘Many thanks, Haldir, I am quite recovered.’ He shot a dark glance at Pippin and added;
‘I am perfectly able to go on now…’
Haldir laughed again and Merry thought to himself this warrior Elf was not so stern after all…as he turned to walk on Merry hurried to keep up with him and continue the conversation.
‘Please, sir, do we have to cross any more rivers?’ Haldir shook his head and smiled again. Merry added;
‘I’m very sorry to have caused so much trouble.’
‘It was no trouble’ answered Haldir. ‘I warrant if I came into your land I might miss some narrow bridge or hidden path..’
Merry had grave doubts that Haldir could ever miss anything but he kept them to himself. The mention of the Shire prompted him to say to Haldir;
‘My land is far to the North, and West.’
‘From your voice’ said Haldir ‘I can see you miss your home.’ Merry nodded sadly, and to his own surprise burst out;
‘Had I known such things exist in the world as I have seen, I would never have left it!’ Haldir nodded gravely, then asked Merry in a gentle voice;
‘Not even to see fair Lothlórien?’ Merry could find no answer. Haldir paused for a moment and the others walked on. He put a hand on the hobbit’s shoulder and said;
‘You are right, there is much in this world that is evil, and much peril. But still there is much that is fair, and although in all lands now grief is mingled with love, maybe love is the greater for all that….’

A crackle of lightning ran round the echoing canyon of Helm’s Deep. It flashed out in blue and white fire and by its dazzling light Haldir saw stretched out before him, as far as he could see, right to the distant horizon, rank upon rank of armoured Uruk-hai. A murmur ran along the ranks of his Elves. Not of fear, more a sigh of recognition, as of those who at last see their enemy revealed before them. As the first rain pattered on the mithril helms of the Galadhrim their long Elvish sight picked out the savage bared tusks of the orcs, their overlapping plates of black armour, their low roar of blood lust. From his left Haldir heard Aragorn’s command to draw bows like some call to arms to all Elves and he himself drew his great Lorien bow to his cheek, now wet with rain. He singled out an orc from the mass, drew a bead on it and then into his mind, empty except for a silent prayer for the Elves, his Elves, came words he himself had spoken not long ago…
‘Now in all lands grief is mingled with love….’
He thought of the little halfling he had said the words to, and hoped that he might come safe through this storm, wherever he might be…

‘Merry! Wake up!’ Pippin was shaking him, Merry sat up and looked at his friend in bewilderment.
‘You were shouting in your sleep, I was afraid they might hear you….’
Pippin nodded to the mouth of Treebeard’s cave, outside of which the Ents, like some living breathing forest, spoke in rolling voices, rising and falling like some great sea of sound.
‘We mustn’t interrupt their Entmoot, must we?’ asked Pippin with a twinkle in his eye. But then his face darkened. ‘Is everything all right, Merry? You look as if you saw a ghost….’
‘No! I’m fine..’ said Merry, but at the same time he wondered why his heart was thumping and his breath coming in short gasps. He cast back to his sleeping thoughts. Haldir! But why did he dream of him, and why was he suddenly afraid? He remembered the Elf’s words. Then he saw Pippin’s concerned face and he tried to cheer up. Best not to worry his friend.
‘It’s nothing, Pip. Just some dream…let’s go and see if the tree shepherds have come to any decision yet..’